ESCANABA - A movie by Escanaba filmmaker Bob Gregg has recently been honored with an award from the Louisville International Festival of Film. This marks the third recognition in four film festivals for Gregg's movie "Jack London's Love of Life," which he both produced and wrote.
The movie was recently honored by winning the LIFF award in the "On the Edge" category, which Gregg said honors "new style filmmaking, new progressive filmmaking, out of the usual filmmaking," among others. The film went up against more than 200 films from approximately 20 countries.
"Love of Life" is based on the 14-page short story of the same name by Jack London, which he wrote in 1905. The film was shot completely in Alaska, and centers on a gold miner, played by Escanaba native Peter Ammel, who is abandoned by his partner and left to fend for himself, Gregg previously told "The Daily Press."
Escanaba filmmaker Bob Gregg, center, was recently honored with a Louisville International Festival of Film “On the Edge” Best Feature Film Award for “Jack London’s Love of Life,” which he produced and wrote. Pictured with Gregg are two other top festival winners: Sam Frazier (at left), Best Documentary Short for “Cardboard Titanics,” and Kimberly Jentzen (at right), Best Short Film and Audience Award Winner for “Reign.” (Courtesy photo)
"He struggles against himself and the wilderness to get back to the woman he loves, so it's mainly a survival story," Gregg said in May, when the movie made its world premiere locally.
Gregg attributes the movie's success to the performance of Ammel.
"A lot of it's driven by Peter Ammel, our actor," he said. "It's a one-man role and he just does a phenomenal job."
According to Gregg, Ammel's performance was praised by the LIFF executive director, long-time actor Conrad Bachmann, who called Ammel's performance "extraordinary."
Gregg said Ammel stayed in his role for 24 hours a day and believes "Love of Life" will continue to do well due to Ammel's acting and should give his career a boost.
The film was also previously chosen by the Great Lakes Film Festival as one of the top features, and the film's musical score, composed by Peter Deneff, was a finalist at the Moondance Film Festival in New York, which is the third-largest film festival in the world behind Cannes, France and Sundance.
"Love of Life" made its premiere at the Island Resort & Casino in May and had a great reaction.
"We had 800 people at the premiere at the casino and the movie received a standing ovation," said Gregg, who noted the next night 923 people paid to see the movie with the same result from the audience.
"It is an excellent film, but anyone that spends anytime in the outdoors understands this film and can really connect to it," he said.
Gregg said "Love of Life" will continue on the film festival circuit until next spring, when it is released for general distribution.
"Love of Life" is directed by Kevin Swigert. Ken Meshigaud of the Hannahville Indian Community, Jeff and Rosalie Naser of Powers, and Bob Schellenberg of Grand Rapids, serve as the show's executive producers.
So what's next in Gregg's film career?
He has plans to work on a new movie with the same basic crew, including director Swigert and Ammel in the starring role. Gregg has been working on the script over the last four or five years.
The movie will follow a group of Iraqi war veterans on a fishing trip to Northern Canada, and serves as a reunion for the vets, but some don't make it back home. Gregg said he hopes the film, called "Moonshadow," can be filmed in the U.P. due to the similar geography of the movie's setting in Canada, and that he's already scouted all possible filming locations.
For more information on the Louisville International Festival of Film, visit louisvillefilm.net.